After installing gigabit fiber in businesses and homes in San Francisco in recent years, Santa Rosa-based Internet service provider Sonic has moved its expansion of those connections in Northern California to the East Bay and the Peninsula for the time being, according to CEO Dane Jasper.
Following installations in Brentwood, Berkeley and Albany, the company is currently installing cables to Oakland properties and has projects in San Carlos, Burlingame, Daly City and Redwood City.
“Oakland is the second major Bay Area flagship city we’re launching,” Jasper told the Business Journal.
An important catalyst for this expansion was Sonic’s win in the tender to provide the data network for city schools.
“Oakland Unified School District’s sourcing of Sonic fiber gave Sonic the opportunity to build a city-wide backbone for connecting all public schools,” said Jasper. “These schools are in the neighborhood, so the schools are in a unique position to catalyze new developments.”
The same opportunity arose when Sonic won contracts for the Old Adobe and Petaluma City Schools neighborhoods a few years ago, followed by fiber optic for city government facilities. This led to the expansion of fiber optics to commercial areas in the north and south of the city as well as the surrounding houses.
After the Berkely schools struggled with the spotty high-speed internet connections needed for distance learning during the pandemic, Sonic recently announced that they will provide free fiber-optic to-home services to about 7,000 households, covering around 10,000 students At the end of this year.
Sonic’s first fiber-to-the-home projects were Sebastopol and Brentwood. The latter was attractive because the city of East Bay was an early adopter of building standards that make installing fiber optic ducts easier in areas where cable television, power and telephone lines for neighborhoods were buried, Jasper said.
Unlike conventional connection trenches, which are 5 to 8 feet deep and several inches wide, one-half inch diameter micro-trenches for the fiber channels are 10 to 18 inches deep and 1 to 2 inches wide. In older parts of the city with antenna connections, the fiber optic cables are connected to households or companies via masts.
Sonic reached out to the City of Santa Rosa about 10 years ago for approval to expand the fiber in an existing commercial area. The city was ready to allow this under a limited pilot program that would allow officials to better understand possible long-term implications for roads, according to Gabe Osburn, assistant director of development services. Sonic used traditional drilling and digging methods.
“Since then, applications from all service providers, including Sonic, have used traditional drilling and trenching methods,” Osburn said in an email. “Sonic is currently upgrading the infrastructure in the city center with traditional construction methods. We haven’t received any microtrenching requests from any of the active communication providers recently. Our willingness to review this technology and possibly include an allowance in a pilot program has not changed and we are ready to respond to the requests as they come. “
Sonic has used a relationship with Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit to expand its fiber optic backbone in both counties, Jasper said.
“That was the key,” he said.
The company supplies SMART with fiber optics for crossing signals as well as ticket machines and WiFi. Sonic has illuminated several commercial areas, including the Airport Business Park and North Dutton Business Park in Santa Rosa, South McDowell Business Park in Petaluma, the former State Farm complex in Rohnert Park, and Hamilton Landing and Bel Marin Keys in Novato.
The planned expansion of SMART’s service to Windsor, which is expected to be completed early next year, will include the expansion of fiber into that city, Jasper said.
Jeff Quackenbush covers wine, construction, and real estate. Prior to the Business Journal, he wrote for the Bay City News Service in San Francisco. He graduated from Walla Walla University. Reach him at email@example.com or 707-521-4256.